Lead by Example

“The reality is that the only way change comes is when you lead by example.” Anne Wojcicki

The people that inspire us most aren’t the people that are running alongside us. The people who inspire us are so far ahead of us that like a magnetic pull, we are automatically drawn forward. And so I’m learning that if someone is not listening to my advice to take better care of themselves, it usually means I’m not that far ahead of them. 

A couple of years ago, I began taking better care of myself and lost weight. I have lost 55 pounds and went from 200 to 145. The one person that I never thought would be against it was my mom. I should have known. In Armenian culture, it is considered healthy for men to be bigger. It shows that you are wealthy and doing well. Plus I was a skinny kid and chronically sick when I was five or six years old. So when we came to Canada, my mom did everything she could to fatten me up. 

So when I started to lose weight, when I would see my mom she’d panic. “What’s wrong? What’s happening? How can you lose all this weight? Are you sick?” I would reassure her that it was intentional and that I was simply taking better care of myself. But she wouldn’t hear it. “No! You are not eating. This is unhealthy. You’ve been single for way too long. Nobody’s cooking for you.” 

The more weight I lost, the more intense the arguments became. When I had lost about 35 pounds and was down to 165, we had our worst argument. I was spending time with my mom, we went out and she had a burger or something and I was just having water. And halfway through the meal, my mom gets angry. Suddenly, she was yelling at me. “That’s it! I’m moving in with you. There’s nobody to take care of you. You’re single. You clearly can’t take care of yourself. I’m gonna be cooking pierogies for you!”

This was insane. There was no way I was going to let my mother move in with me. So for about eight pounds, I ghosted my mom. I couldn’t deal with talking to her at that point. After I dropped those eight pounds, I called her and said “Hey, Mom. Let’s go get some sushi.” So we went and we ordered some beer and some sushi. I was excited. Fridays are my cheat day. I get to treat myself a little and celebrate all the hard work I’ve put in. 

Our beers arrived and then our sushi – three giant rolls – was placed in the middle of the table. After cleaning my chopsticks, I reached over to get some sushi and my mom smiled and put the entire plate of sushi in front of her, grabbed a single piece of parsley or some other garnish and put it on my plate. My mom looked me in the eyes and said “That’s all you eat right? You rabbit!”

At first, I was shocked. But then I started laughing and she laughed too. We were talking and joking and having a great time. I love my mom so much. Halfway through the meal, my mom suddenly gets serious and puts down her chopsticks and looks away. She looks guilty. Instantly I’m alarmed and concerned. She turned to me and said “Don’t make a big deal. Promise me!”

And I looked at her tenderly, smiled and said, “Mom, I promise no such thing. What happened?”

She started counting. “One, two, maybe three.” Now I was completely confused. What is she counting and why? She continued; “I want to lose three kilos. How did you do it? What can I do?”

My jaw fell to the floor and I got angry. After all the crap she gave me! But then I started to laugh. But I had to give her a bit of her own medicine. “Are you kidding me? You were the one who harassed me about me losing weight. And now you want my advice?”

And she looked at me and said; “I told you I don’t make a big deal about it. Here’s the reason. When you walked into the restaurant, you looked like a different son. It is not just the weight, it is your confidence. You are not adjusting your shirt to hide your body anymore. You were self-conscious before but I don’t see that anymore. It is incredible. And I want that. How did you do it?”

It was great validation. I smiled and I looked at her and I looked at the table. I took her beer and put it on my side of the table. “You have to cut out the beer. It has too many calories.” And so I gave her advice. I gave her some rules. In six months my mom dropped not just three kilograms but fifteen! And she’s healthier now than she was 15-20 years ago.  

When I first started to lose weight, my mom was concerned. But once I was so far ahead of her, she suddenly realized she wanted to be there with me. So what I keep learning is people never listen to what we say. But they can’t help but want to be at the same level as we are. And so lead by example. Take amazing care of yourself. And next time you feel frustrated when someone isn’t listening to your advice, humbly accept that you’re still too close to them. They don’t see much of a gap between your achievements and their own. Don’t get frustrated. Run as far as you can. And sooner or later, they’ll all join you there.

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